I played football as a kid and have loved the game ever since, but it is becoming a farce.
Twenty-two guys still play it, but two decide many of the games, including a great many of the most important ones.
Field goals should be outlawed, or limited to attempts of 45 or 50 yards or more.
To have two teams battle brutally for four quarters, and then have some soccer guy come in and boot one from 20 or 25 yards out to win it all, is an insult to the guys who risk life and limb for 60 minutes hammering brutally up and down the field.
It’s bad enough that career-ending injuries can lead to lifetime physical infirmities. On top of that is the psychological trauma inflicted on the unfortunate guys who come in to save a game and miss.
How long do you think it will take Doug Brien of the New York Jets to recover from missing not one but two field goals in the last two minutes and two seconds of regular play last Saturday? The answer is never. Either kick probably would have put the Jets in the playoffs, and preserved Herman Edwards’ coaching job for the foreseeable future, beyond any threat. Equally important, they would have vindicated the valiant efforts the Jets put up against the mighty Steelers.
I’m no Jets fan. I’m actually a Steelers man, both by Pennsylvania heritage and long friendship with the Rooney family. I felt sorry, though, for Chad Pennington and his Jets crew after the game fight they put up, both in regular time and overtime, only to have the battle end with Jeff Reed kicking his 19th straight field goal to send Pittsburgh to its 15th straight win.
That’s no way to end a hard fought war.
Beyond that, the playoffs — a device arranged for TV and gate money and not for sport — are as much a farce as field goals.
Watching the mismatched St. Louis Rams, with a 9-8 record, fiddle around and fumble and drop passes against an inspired Atlanta Falcons bunch Saturday, and lose 47-17, was about as thrilling as watching rain run down a window pane. Add the obligatory shots that TV directors feel they have to show of clowns in the stands with painted faces or cheeseheads or hog noses, or cheerleaders with pasted-on smiles shaking their fringes and their fannys, and it was downright painful.
After Saturday’s Rams-Falcons mismatch came Sunday’s reprise, sending Minnesota, another really exciting 9-8 club, against 13-3 Philadelphia. The most stirring moments came with Randy Moss catching few passes but a lot of flak from Eagles’ fans about his now commercialized behind.
The NFL and the networks keep crowing "Playoffs — This is What It’s All About." But teams with 9-8 records are not what it’s all about. They’re not worth watching.
What it’s all about is Indianapolis, 13-4 going in, against 14-2 New England. The Patriots came out as the best team with the top coach and quarterback.
Halfway through the third quarter or so, a quiz flashed on the screen, asking which quarterback you would want in the final minutes of a close game, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
The answer is Brady, and not because the Patriots won.
The reason is coolness.
Peyton Manning is a superb passer, but he is spoiled by success, in college and the pros. He acts like a petulant kid when things don’t go his way. That shaking of the head and those outstretched arms, palms up, keep suggesting he is blaming everyone but himself when the tide turns. Brady has receivers who drop balls too, and he overthrows occasionally like Manning, but he just keeps cool, firing away, never showing emotion.
Tony Dungy is a very solid coach and an admirable guy. Scowling Bill Belichick is brilliant. He faces a terrific football team this week, but he’ll have answers. The Steelers were lucky to win over the Jets, and they will have to play better football to beat New England. With Tedy Bruschi and Tom Brady leading the way, New England will be very tough to beat. Maybe Belichick will even smile.